Durham County

Who’s running for office in Durham and why

Voters were offered a sticker after they cast their ballots on the first day of early voting in 2016.
Voters were offered a sticker after they cast their ballots on the first day of early voting in 2016. cseward@newsobserver.com

Editor’s note: Read the most up-to-date list of candidates here.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Wednesday, July 26 after Michael Johnson pulled out of the mayoral race.

Durham The filing period ended at noon Friday, June 21, with six candidates seeking to fill Mayor Bill Bell’s shoes in the two-year mayoral seat.

Initially seven people filed to run for mayor, but Michael Johnson said Wednesday he decided not to run.

On the City Council, four candidates including incumbent Cora Cole-McFadden, are seeking the Ward 1 seat. Ward 2 incumbent Councilman Eddie Davis isn’t running, but six other are vying for the spot. And Ward 3 incumbent Don Moffitt is seeking a second term, but he’ll face three others. Ward representatives must live in the district but are elected citywide.

The primary is Oct. 10. The top two finishers in each race will proceed to the Nov. 7 general election.


▪ Farad Ali

Age: 50

Address: 5301 Lyon Farm Drive, Durham

Email/website: Farad@faradali4mayor.com, https://faradali4mayor.com/

Occupation: President/CEO, The Institute

Elected offices:: Durham City Council, 2007-11

Relevant experience: Chair, Raleigh-Durham International Airport Authority (2012- Present)

Why did you decide to seek election: I have spent my lifetime working to unify communities and have the strength, leadership, experience and knowledge to collaborate Durham’s greatest assets: our people. I believe in the diversity of Durham and I am confident as one Durham, we can turn the current challenges we face into the next generation of opportunities.

▪ Tracy D. Drinker

Age: 56

Address: 901 Park Ridge Road, B5, Durham

Email/website: Tracy.Drinker@gmail.com

Occupation: Retired police officer

Elected offices: None

Relevant experience: NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) NC, board member 2017 - present; NAMI Durham, board member 2011 - present

Why did you decide to seek election: Our infrastructure here in Durham is growing and flourishing and on the move for more growth for the next five to seven years. However, I believe that the people of Durham are in need of someone who cares about the needs of the many who feel they have been left out in the cold when it comes to affordable housing and the continued climb of mental health and quality of life issues that have been or appear to be overlooked.

▪ Pierce Freelon

Age: 33

Address: 208 W. Markham Ave., Durham

Email/website: pierce@freelonfordurham.com, https://www.freelonfordurham.com/

Occupation: Adjunct lecturer, musician, web-series producer, founder of Blackspace

Elected offices: None

Relevant experience: North Carolina Arts Council, former board member

Why did you decide to seek election: I am running for mayor because City Council needs bold, visionary leadership and fresh perspectives. As mayor, I will bring people together with a progressive agenda that embraces the diversity of our community, ensures everyone benefits from the city’s growth, invests in the future of our youth, and lifts every voice.

▪ Michael Johnson (Johnson said on Wednesday, July 26, he no longer plans to run. )

Age: 59

Address: 302 Macon St., Durham

Email/website: ushome846@gmail.com

Occupation: retired, former co-owner of ABC Cab Co.

Elected offices: None

Why did you decide to seek election: I am running because of alleged corruption within the Police Department and officers being overworked with 21 days on and seven days off shifts. And for the youth because our parks are in terrible shape and the recreation center on Trinity Avenue needs to be open.

▪ Shea Ramirez

Address: 10 Fielding Court, Durham

Occupation: A tax preparer who owns the one-person agency Tax Genius and SHee’Bella Modeling & Talent Agency.

Ramirez was unable to provide information by deadline.

▪ Steve Schewel

Age: 66

Address: 2101 W. Club Blvd., Durham

Email/website: https://www.stevefordurham.com/

Occupation: Visiting assistant professor, Duke University

Elected offices: Durham City Council, 2011-present; Durham Public Schools Board of Education, 2004-08

Relevant experience: Founded and published the Independent Weekly (IndyWeek) for 30 years

Why did you decide to seek election to this office: I love this city, and I want it to flourish in a way that everyone can share in our newfound prosperity. We must make sure that the city we love is a city for all.

▪ Sylvester Williams

Age: 62

Address: 404 Sparella St., Durham

Email/website: sylbar@hotmail.com

Occupation: Retired financial analyst

Elected offices: Former candidate for mayor

Relevant experience: Youth Services Advisory Board

Why did you decide to seek election: Growth in Durham is uneven, with affordable housing being one of the great challenges. Title VI Complaint was filed and accepted based on the state legislature, former Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and Department of City and Regional Planning UNC-Chapel Hill either admitting, alluding to or showing that the practice of institutional racism impacted the lives of low-income people and minorities.

Ward 1 (one seat)

▪ Brian Callaway

Age: 34

Address: 307 Gresham Ave., Durham

Email/website: brian@callawayfordurham.com, callawayfordurham.com

Occupation: Coordinator of Energy and Sustainability for Durham Public Schools

Elected offices: None

Relevant experience: I have worked professionally in, for and with local government for eight years in positions that promote innovation and reform.

Why did you decide to seek election: Durham is a city that is changing yet still has very pressing needs. In the spirit of democracy, I want to present to the voters of Durham a solutions-based platform that I believe can make our community stronger through housing reform, tax reform and law enforcement reform.

▪ DeDreana Freeman

Age: 39

Address: 1005 Worth St., Durham

Email/website: DeDreanaFreeman.Com info@DeDreana.Freeman.Com

Occupation: Nonprofit administrator

Elected offices: Durham Democratic Party Precinct No.17, chair 2012-present; Durham Democratic Party 3rd-vice chair 2014-15; N.C. Democratic Party, convention delegate 2014-present; N.C. Democratic Party State Executive Board, member 2016-present

Relevant experience: Durham Planning Commission 2014-present

Why did you decide to seek election: There is a clear and growing distinction between those who are hurting and those who are doing well in Durham, I believe we must redouble our efforts to close this divide now. That is why I am running for City Council: to be a voice for the people and work towards a more socially, economically, and environmentally JUST Durham.

▪ Cora Cole-McFadden (incumbent)

Age: 71

Address: 5613 Old Well St., Durham

Email/website : africancora@aol.com, https://www.facebook.com/ReElectCoraColeMcFadden/

Occupation: Retired, City of Durham 2001

Elected offices: Durham City Council, 2001-present

Relevant experience: Durham Convention and Visitors Board of Directors

Why did you decide to seek re-election: I decided to run for re-election to the Ward 1 seat because I love serving my city, which shaped me for community service since my childhood. I am ready to serve and have time to serve, have a legacy of sacrifice and service as a native of Durham, am a champion for youth, a diversity change agent, and my experience and presence in the Durham community and in local government is longstanding.

▪ John Tarantino

Age: 60

Address: 515 N. Hyde Park Ave.

Email/website: tino.nc@live.com

Occupation: Retired, Army National Guard, retired school teacher

Elected offices: former City Council candidate

Relevant experience: Frequently attends Durham City Council and other government meetings

Why did you decide to seek election: I want to be the voice of sanity in support of the taxpayers who are opposing the light rail boondoggle. I would like to address the issue of unaffordable affordable housing.

Ward 2 (one seat)

▪ LeVon Barnes

Age: 34

Address: 200 Mahone St., Durham

Email/website: celect.barnes@gmail.com, https://levon4durham.com/

Occupation: Teacher at The School for Creative Studies

Elected offices: Democratic Party precinct chair

List one relevant experience: Founder, Young Male Achievers

Why did you decide to seek election: As a teacher, I talk to students who come to school on an empty stomach or are in unsafe home situations; I talk to parents who work multiple jobs but are struggling to buy school supplies. I’m running for City Council because this is my community and it’s about time we were truly represented in local government.

▪ DeAnna Hall

Age: 40

Address: 205 Carywood Drive Durham

Email/website: https://www.facebook.com/DHallforCityCouncil

Occupation: IT Business Analyst

Elected offices: None

List one relevant experience: Secretary of Durham Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Commission

Why did you decide to seek election: I believe in service to the community. People serve in many ways; as PTA leaders, clergy, public safety persons, teachers, health care providers, community activists, lenders of helping hands to neighbors and friends, and many others; my choice is public servant.

▪ Robert Fluet

Age: 33

Address: 1054 Spacious Skies Lane, Durham

Email/website: robb@fluetforamerica.com www.robbfluet.org

Occupation: Director of Client Development, vision and solution architect, Client Savvy

Elected offices: School Committee – Greenfield MA Public Schools 2000-2001. Hanover Pointe HOA

Relevant experience: In my role as the director of Client Engagement at Client Savvy, every day I discuss the challenges and problems that businesses hold, and help craft solutions.

Why did you decide to seek election: After the presidential election I had to share the news with my eldest Daughter, who was teary eyed and upset. She asked why I hadn’t run for office; that’s when I decided I needed to run, for my daughters, as well as all the children in Durham, to ensure that we live in a city that is inclusive, safe and one we are proud to call home.

▪ Mark-Anthony Middleton

Age: 49

Address: 3018 Appling Way, Durham

Email: middleton4durham@gmail.com

Occupation: Senior pastor, Abundant Hope Christian Church, radio talk show host on Choice FM. (92.1 and 98.3)

Elected offices: None

Relevant experience: Have led campaigns on police reform, affordable housing, and economic justice as a part of the leadership team of Durham Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods.

Why did you decide to seek election: I am not running to practice incrementalism nor simple maintenance. If elected I will instigate debate at the highest level of this city’s leadership with an eye toward specific policy initiatives in multiple areas.

▪ Dolly Reaves

Age: 27

Address: 1 Still Pond Court, Durham

Email/website: dollyreaves.com

Occupation: Stay-at-home mom, grad student, part time nanny

Elected offices: None

Relevant experience: Internship with Transforming Hope Ministries

Why did you decide to seek election: After having been a homeless single mom, I sought to be the change I wanted to see to help create policies that strengthen those in poverty and make our communities stronger.

▪ John Rooks Jr.

Age: 48

Address: 1713 Willowcrest Road, Durham

Email/website: votejohnrooks@gmail.com

Occupation: EDI Engineer

Elected offices: None

Relevant experience: REAL Kids United, co-founder, 2012-present

Why did you decide to seek election: I decided to seek the job of Durham City Council to be a true advocate for all Durham residents. As I am already committed to doing the work for our city, I intend on doing it in a transparent manner.

Ward 3 (one seat)

▪ Vernetta Alston

Age: 35

Address: 3433 Dover Road, Durham

Email/website: Email: vernettaalstonnc@gmail.com, http://www.vernettaalston.com/

Occupation: Attorney, Center for Death Penalty Litigation, Inc.

Elected offices: None.

Relevant experience: Member and secretary on the City of Durham Citizen’s Advisory Committee

Why did you decide to seek election: I am seeking election to City Council in hopes of pushing our city government in a bold, progressive direction. Durham has to be the unwavering standard bearer for our progressive values.

▪ Lenny Kovalick

Age: 35

Address: 2624 Pickett Road

Email/website: lkovalick@gmail.com

Occupation: Pediatric nurse practitioner

Elected offices: None

Relevent experience: Member of the appearance commission

Why did you decide to seek election: To give back to my community and help make decision that I feel are best for all residents of Durham. .

▪ Sheila Ann Huggins

Age: 49

Address: 2408 Tampa Ave., Durham

Email/website: votesheliahuggins@gmail.com; FB@votesheliahuggins

Occupation: Attorney

Elected offices: Democratic National Committee, member 2016-present; N.C. Democratic Party State Executive Committee, 2014-16; Durham County Democratic Party African-American Caucus; N.C. Democratic Party African-American Caucus Former Secretary, Secretary, 2015-16; Durham and Wake County Democratic Party, precinct chair and vice-chair; Wake County Democratic Party, third vice-chair

List one relevant experience: N.C. Central University School of Business Board of Visitors

Why did you decide to seek election: We need strong leadership at the local level from someone who understands the issues facing Durham and who will be committed to being bold when it comes to analyzing our challenges and advocating for solutions.

▪ Name: Don Moffitt (incumbent)

Age: 61

Address: 2114 Wilson St, Durham

Email/website: don@donmoffitt.us; www.donmoffitt.us

Occupation: Business development consultant for cooperatively owned grocery stores, CDS Consulting Co-op

Elected offices: Durham City Council, 2013-present

Relevant experience: Durham City/County Planning Commission (6 years, 3 as chair)

Why did you decide to seek re-election: City Council is in the middle of important initiatives on affordable housing and homelessness, neighborhood stabilization, transit, community/police relations, racial equity and land-use planning. It’s critical to move these issues forward, and I want to continue my work to help make Durham a better city for all.

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges